For more than a century, the Bohemian Grove, a 2,700-acre forest retreat in Sonoma County, has served as the stomping grounds of California's richest men. The private, all-male club, founded in 1872 by a pair of San Francisco journalists, has a secret membership whose ironic primary directive is to never speak with reporters. The secrecy surrounding the group has given rise to rumors of homosexuality and bizarre rituals involving satanism and human sacrifice.
There's even speculation that the Bohemian Grove is actually an offshoot of a secret cult stretching back through history to ancient Egypt. Google the group, and you'll find that its members have included numerous former U.S. presidents and various masters of industry. Dig deeper, and you'll discover that it's actually a playground for an elite cabal plotting New World Order global domination alongside the Elders of Zion, Knights Templar, Freemasons and Illuminati.
The Grove's motto—"Weaving Spiders Come Not Here"—taken from a play by Shakespeare, was originally intended as an admonition against members discussing business at the club. Yet the Grove's guest list suggests that matters of national and even global policy are indeed discussed there. The most famous example, privately confirmed by Bohemian Grove members—or "Bohos" as they refer to themselves—is the Manhattan Project, which supposedly met there when they decided to drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima.
Recent guest speakers at the Grove from the current White House alone include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove and George W. Bush himself. In years past, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon are all known to have attended the festivities. A highlight of the Bacchanalia is the famed "Cremation of Care" ceremony, where hooded priests burn a coffin-like effigy in front of a giant stone statue of an owl. There's also a Shakespearean drag ensemble called the "High Jinks" and the "Low Jinks" comedy festival involving masked performances by giddy, inebriated politicians. "[I]t is the most faggy goddamn thing that you would ever imagine," Nixon later remarked.
Few outsiders have ever violated the Grove's heavily guarded perimeter. The most famous infiltration occurred in June 2000, when Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and Texas-based radio host, penetrated the camp with a video camera, an episode hilariously captured by British writer Jon Ronson in his 2002 book, Them: Adventures With Extremists. Jones managed to film the "Cremation of Care" ceremony, obtaining a few minutes of grainy footage of a giant stone owl surrounded by men in bright robes, the flames from their torches reflected in a lake, their ominous chanting half-obscured by the croaking of unseen bullfrogs. "The global elite that attend the Grove have their fingers on the nuclear launch codes," Jones later said. "Is it not therefore in the interest of the American people and the wider world that the veil of secrecy which shadows the activities inside the Bohemian Grove be brought to light and exposed for what it is?"
In an unprecedented journalistic coup, OC Weekly recently tracked down a former employee of the Bohemian Grove. One of the few insiders to ever pull the veil back from this nefarious conspiracy to enslave mankind, the Orange County resident begged us not to identify her by name, out of fear, we presume, that she'd be eliminated by the secret society's shadowy leaders.
Tell us something that only someone who's been inside the Bohemian Grove would know.
That owl [statue] is plastic. It's not a rock. It's like what they have at Disneyland. Even the rocks around the lake have speakers inside them. The noise from these mysterious frogs that don't seem to get squashed on the road are really speakers. They aren't frogs. You go to chase the frog, and it just disappears and the noise comes from somewhere else. Also, they have hotels nearby where hookers stay, and members leave the camp to see them. It's not something that the club organizes or condones, but it happens every year.
When did you first learn about the Bohemian Grove?
When I was a kid, my best friend told me about it. Both her dad and grandfather were members. She told me her dad would come home from the Grove every summer with funny stories about the place. They had all these musicians up there. She said it was basically band camp for big boys, a summer camp full of adult musicians and actors. Her family was really artistic. These were people I had grown up around. They used to have these singing parties all the time.
How did you end up getting a job there?
I went to college in San Francisco and didn't know anybody up there. I met this girl from OC who said she worked at this private men's club in San Francisco. I asked which one and she said the Bohemian Club, and I just laughed. It was such a coincidence! It's actually called the City Club, but it's Bohemian. I asked my friend if they were looking for any help and ended up getting a job there. I was just trying to pay for college. I didn't tell anybody except my friend that I already knew about the Bohemian Grove.
During the off-season, there isn't anything happening at the Grove, but a lot of members hang out at the City Club. They can get keys and go up to the camp, but if they bring female guests, they have to be off the grounds by 9 or 10 p.m. I ended up working at the Grove that summer. I rented a place nearby because they do not provide housing for female employees, except managers and interns. Guerneville is a gay resort town. Everybody was really friendly there. I made a ton of money because I was working really long days. I'd show up at 7 a.m. and work until 8 at night. I worked in the Dining Circle. There was tons of produce and all the liquor in the world, lots of wine. If someone said, "Hey, we're out of Maker's Mark," we'd send over another bottle, or 10.
Experts say the Bohemian Grove is a secret society where world leaders plot global domination. How exciting was it to be around global plot-hatchers all summer?
It was just a bunch of rich guys hanging out and partying. You have all these different camps inside with different names like a fraternity system. They have a camp for the guys who do the lighting for the Cremation of Care, one for the entertainers, one for guys from Stanford. The Cremation of Care is the kickoff ceremony and has the same basic script every year. Care is a great big monster and the guys try to burn Care so they can party for three weeks. And Care says, "You can't kill me; I'll be back in three weeks!" and at the end of three weeks they have to go back to their jobs and Care returns.
Other than that, they all just spend weeks getting drunk and playing music, drinking at the bar. It's not as important as everyone makes it sound. You're working for a bunch of old guys, and occasionally you recognize one from television or whatever. Some famous musician might be playing at one of the camps, and they'd listen for a while and then fall down drunk and pass out. There are always guys walking around pissing on trees. They have these plays where the men dress up like women and entertain the other men.
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Some of this stuff sounds pretty homoerotic. Does the club allow gays to join?
Sure, of course. It's an artistic club, so that'd be hard to avoid. There are members who are less accepting of this than others. But in general, it's like any club where you are asked to pay high dues. You're going to have more old white guys than anyone else, but there are all kinds of other races represented too. It has about 2,700 members. You can't get wait-listed to join until you're 21 years old, but there's a 15- to 20-year waiting list. There's a newsletter sent out on who wants to join, and if three people don't want you, you have to reapply.
The reason people are so suspicious about the Bohemian Grove is they don't know anything about it and the members are really secretive. Journalists can't join the club. And they don't respond to any of the rumors because they don't want the attention. There are always these protesters outside chanting "Racist, sexist and anti-gay," and that's just ridiculous. As far as the club not allowing women to join, I don't have a problem with that either. If you threw 3,000 women into the forest with all these guys pissing on trees for three weeks, it'd be chaos.